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August 31, 2020

Family dogs found playing with bat; bat tests positive for rabies

An important reminder to all pet owners to be sure their dogs, cats, and ferrets are up-to-date on rabies vaccinations

Boulder County, CO - Two family dogs were found playing with a bat outside their home in Boulder. The bat was confirmed to be positive for rabies. Each dog has received a rabies booster shot and will need to be watched for 45 days for signs of illness. Rabies is always fatal unless it is treated before any symptoms appear. This is the seventh animal (six bats, one dog) to test positive for rabies in Boulder County this season.

The pet owners knew not to touch the bat and called animal control to collect the bat for rabies testing. Fortunately, both dogs had previously been vaccinated against the disease, so the dogs did not have to be quarantined.

“When COVID-19 required most of us to stay home, many people got new pets to spend time with,” said Carol McInnes, Boulder County Public Health environmental health specialist. “This is an important reminder to all pet owners to be sure that their dogs, cats, and ferrets are up-to-date on their rabies vaccinations. If they’re not, they should call their veterinary clinic to schedule the rabies shot as soon as possible.”

Humans are most commonly exposed to rabies when they interact with wildlife, take a bat away from a family pet, pick a bat up off the ground, or try to remove a bat from their house. It’s normal to find a bat hanging under the eaves of a house, under a porch overhang, or hidden behind shutters or gutters, but a bat on the ground is an indication that something could be wrong.

“The best thing you can do is to make sure your pet’s vaccinations are up-to-date and keep them from interacting with wild animals,” said McInnes. “Unfortunately, when a pet is not vaccinated and has had contact with an animal infected with rabies, they must be quarantined, or even worse, euthanized.”

Rabies is an infectious viral disease that affects the nervous system. Exposure to disease is generally the result of a bite or scratch by an infected animal, and it is sometimes practically undetectable, such as a tiny puncture of the skin by a bat. Treatment for rabies exposure involves a series of vaccinations.

Public health officials recommend that the following precautions be taken to reduce the risk of exposure to rabies:

  • DO NOT handle unfamiliar animals, wild or domestic, even if they appear friendly. Contact animal control to collect the animal.
  • Thoroughly wash any wound caused by an animal with soap and water, and seek medical attention immediately.
  • Keep vaccinations current for all dogs, cats, and ferrets. Keep cats and ferrets inside and keep outdoor dogs under direct supervision.
  • Contact your local public health department or animal control if people or pets have been bitten or exposed to a bat.
  • Contact your local animal control officer to collect the bat for rabies testing.

So far in 2020, 69 animals from Colorado have tested positive for rabies. These animals are known or strongly suspected of exposing 86 domestic pets, 37 livestock animals, and 76 people to rabies.

Bats are the most common animal source of rabies in Colorado. On average, about 15 percent of bats submitted for rabies testing are positive for the disease. In the last few years, skunks have also been a significant source of rabies throughout eastern Colorado and the now the Front Range. Other wild animals that may carry rabies include raccoons and foxes.

Residents who find a bat that may have come in contact with a person, pet, or livestock should call their local animal control office. For questions about human contact with a bat, call the Colorado Health Information Line at 877-462-2911. For general information about rabies, visit